One cannot accurately define the term YL without first defining the term OM. As with most things in radio, it all started with CW. OM stands for “Old Man”, which was a telegraphy abbreviation used to describe any man, regardless of age.
Now, that the whole OM thing is cleared up…
It may be with some misplaced idol worship that I say … even the thickest of our Old Men is of above-average intelligence. From that statement, I would also deduce that due to aforementioned “above-average intelligence”, I doubt there is an OM on the planet who is obtuse enough to call a female ham an Old Lady or an Old Woman. Especially not if she’s his wife and he would like to keep her that way. But I digress…
Back to defining “YL”. I pulled this short article from the YLRL website. (More about the YLRL later.)
The term YL was first defined in an American Radio Relay League Traffic Report signed by E. C. Adams on May 13, 1920 to a Miss M. Adaire Garmhausen, 3BCK. He was replying to her submission of an article submitted to QST on “How to Build a Wireless Station”.
Pause for editorial comment.
Wait, what? A woman submitted an article on HOW TO BUILD A WIRELESS STATION to QST in 1920? Well check a 1920’s fly sister out! You go girl!
(Cue hushed golf narrator voice) We now return to our regularly scheduled “YL definition”, wherein we were reading a traffic report signed by a Mr. EC Adams to one 1920’s fly sister a Miss M. Adaire Garmhausen.
The traffic Report said, “My Dear YL– We have to coin a new phrase for your benefit as you will readily see that OM will not fit and OL [Old Lady] would certainly be most inapplicable.” (SEE THERE? Smart OM!) Even though Miss Garmhausen wasn’t the first YL ham radio operator, this is when the term was first applied specifically to label all women as Young Ladies no matter what their age.
Her article was published in the July 1920 issue of QST, she followed with a second article published in May 1921, but it wasn’t until the October 1922 column “Who’s Who in Amateur Wireless” that M. Adaire’s picture was printed as she was honored -- along with another YL, Miss Winifred Dow, 7CP, from Tacoma, WA.
Many OMs have used the term “XYL” (meaning Ex-Young Lady) to describe a wife versus a single lady, but some women, (REALLY? ONLY SOME, HUH?) take offense to the term feeling that getting married does not mean a female is no longer a Young Lady.
Now, in case you are unaware -- Ladies, we *DO* have our own radio league. It’s called the Young Ladies Radio League, or the YLRL for short. The YLRL has been around since 1939. Apparently the first thing they did as an organization was attempt to define the term “YL”. One year after they came into an existence, in 1940, they set the policy regarding the term “YL” in their quarterly YL-Harmonics newsletter. In it, they said --
“The term “YL” is to be used to describe all licensed amateur operators of the feminine sex.”
This means we are all young ladies no matter our marital status. A licensed woman is a YL, a licensed man is an OM. Both of these terms are used no matter what a person’s age. And, according to our friends at the YLRL, an XYL is a non-licensed wife.
So there you go. Any female, regardless of age or marital status is a YL. And if you’re on the fence about the term XYL, just avoid the term altogether.